My dear mother, Johanna Beeke, aged 92, passed on into the presence of her Savior, at 3:45 a.m. on July 23, 2012. Though words seem hollow right now, I have tried to write a little of the tremendous legacy she left us five children and our spouses. Some of this material I used for leading her funeral on July 28. Afterwards, I preached on John 14:1–3, the text that the Lord used to grant her some spiritual liberty in the early years of her conversion. The following day, July 29, I preached a follow-up sermon to the flock I serve in Grand Rapids, Michigan on Psalm 17:15, which is available on sermonaudio.com.
Over the next several posts I will try to communicate the legacy of godliness my mother left behind.
1. Prayerful—that would have to be the first descriptive word. In terms of consistently coming to the throne of grace, pleading for God’s mercy, Mother was the best prayer warrior I have ever known. When our parents had their 50th anniversary, and we all decided to thank each of them for one thing without telling each other what we would say, that we all thanked Mother for praying for us. We all could feel as we grew up that she was praying earnestly for each of us. When we would get up in the morning, you would walk by the living room on the way to the kitchen to get breakfast, you would furtively glance into the living room, there to see through the shadows Mother on her knees. You felt that that prayer place was a sacred place of communion with God, where Mother did business with heaven on our behalf.
Once, as a young teenager, I recall vividly a certain occasion in which I was about to watch something with a friend that was not edifying. Just before I indulged in desensitizing my conscience, however, it was as if I saw Mother on her knees before me. The power of that image in my mind was such that, even though I was not saved, I told my friend I couldn’t watch what he wanted to watch.
Often Mother would pray at great length. Once I called Dad from Grand Rapids and said, “Do you mind if I come down to visit this evening, as I don’t have any obligations?” “That would be fine,” he said. “Can I just speak with Mother for a moment?” I said. “Well,” he hesitated, “she’s praying right now.” “Never mind then,” I said, “I will talk with her when I come.” When I arrived at our parents’ home 50 miles later, only my Dad greeted me. “Where’s Mother?” I asked. “She’s still praying,” he said.
I remember Dad telling me 26 years ago when I was still in New Jersey how Mother had prayed for us far more than we ever knew. Dad told me at that time in a very tender moment that she normally spent two hours on her knees every day. Most of that time was spent no doubt in praying for us as children. When she was in spiritual darkness, she once said to me, “Perhaps my soul would be in a better condition if I would have prayed as much for myself as I have prayed for you.”
I also remember overhearing a conversation at a church gathering, where an elder approached Dad to ask him, “What was the secret of your child-rearing since all of your children have come to know the Lord?” I will never forget his answer: “The grace of God and their mother’s prayers,” he said.
But you didn’t hear about that from Mother herself. When she turned 85 I asked her, “Mother, if you could live your life all over again, what would you do differently?” “Oh dear,” she said, “I would pray more.” That answer was so convicting—and enlightening. I have long noticed that the more we as believers are graced with God’s particular graces, the more we will feel how little we have of those very graces.
Mother’s prayers also encircled her dear grandchildren and great-grandchildren and great-great grandchild—all 128 of them. She loved them all, and prayed for them all. When she thought about how large our family had become, she was amazed at God’s grace. She would often say near the end when she was very forgetful and would seem surprised on every occasion when we told her how large the family as: “Can you beat that? And then to think that I was an only child!” Oh, how shall we ever realize the magnitude of the covenant mercies of our God that have been bequeathed to us through a praying mother!
I thank God that by His grace, He gave us a praying mother.